Friday, August 13, 2010

News Blast: South Korea Apology, Japan's Gay Pride, Japanese Reggae, Panda Babies, Lightning Mushrooms And More

Gay pride march in Shibuya via.

Japan’s Korea Occupation Centennial Sparks Conflict

In advance of the 100th anniversary of Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula, Prime Minister Naoto Kan addressed South Koreans in a public speech: "For the enormous damage and suffering caused during this colonial rule, I would like to express once again our deep remorse and heartfelt apology."

While such speeches have been made by previous Prime Ministers, the reactions from all sides on this historic occasion run a similar vein. Some South Koreans point to the Japanese government’s failure to acknowledge the extent of the brutality of their colonial rule. A Korean advocacy group for Comfort Women said, "The Japanese government comes out once again with more lip service," and is pushing for further reparations. The Japanese government maintains that reparations were paid in full in 1965 when relations between South Korea and Japan were normalized.

Though the occupation covered the entire Korean Peninsula, formal apologies have only been addressed to South Korea. Even though there are no diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea, Japan Today reports the North Korean government slammed Kan shortly after the speech. "We can only judge that Japan wants to keep the division of the peninsula," said an unnamed North Korean official in charge of Japanese affairs.

Back home, many conservative Japanese feel tighter diplomatic ties with South Korea have led to an unfair bias for Koreans living in Japan. This week several members of a right-wing activist group, Zaitokukai, were arrested for harassing a Korean school in Kyoto. The alleged assaults happened December 2009, when activists disrupted classes by protesting with a loudspeaker against Korean schools, and cut power to some parts of the school.

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Anniversary

After last week's memorializing of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this week marked the anniversary of the atomic bombing at Nagasaki. A ceremony was held at the peace memorial the southern coastal town, attended by survivors, foreign dignitaries and activists of many ages and nationalities. PM Kan says he’ll consider making three non-nuclear principles proposed by survivors and activists into law, as well as pressuring foreign countries, especially India, to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement.

To mark the occasion, Gizmodo has a collection of interviews with survivors from the Hiroshima attack, painting a harrowing picture of the day the bombs fell. Pink Tentacle posted graphic artist Isao Hashimoto’s new work 1945-1988--a mesmerizing video representation of every nuclear bomb detonated between those years. As of 1988, America led with 1,032; Japan: 0.

Japanese Gay Pride

With California's ruling on the unconstitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage grabbing headlines this week, people may have missed Reuter's report that Japan's LGBT pride parade returns this weekend after a 3 year hiatus.

Same sex relationships have a long, varied history in Japan, which has led to complicated contemporary social mores. Japan has little protection for discrimination based on sexuality, and the 2009 political shift gave hope towards equality. It's a long road to understanding let alone acceptance (such as being out in a Japanese the office), and some in Japan resist what they see as the West's 'Rainbow Imperialism'.

But times they are a changin'. Seminal gay tv blog AfterElton's commentary on how Japan's gay stereotypes play out in the media demonstrates a refining of gay representations in Japan, from early yaoi manga geared towards female readers, to the once wildly popular and bizarrely macho wrestler Razor Ramon HG, to more current (and sophisticated) anime such as Junjō Romantica. And if there's one thing we've learned, media trends pave the way to social acceptance!

Bite-size News

►Japan takes a break for the national high school summer baseball tournament, Koshien.

►The Times' Paul Krugman supports the idea that stagnation is responsible for effete young men in Japan.

►The governor of Okinawa rejected Japan's plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Nago.

►Why Hiroshima is a place where everyone should visit at least once.

►Examiner examines a slice of Japanese and Asian culture in small town North Carolina.

►According to Japanese folklore, mushrooms struck by lightning multiply faster. Zap: this was recently proven a scientific fact.

►Photo of the week: Giant panda gave birth to her second set of twins at Japan's Shirahama city Adventure World animal theme park in Shirahama city. (More Japan photos from the WSJ).

►JET Programme update: This week Japan assesses if the government's three decades old English teaching program should survive budget cuts. The program has long been considered a cornerstone of ‘soft power’ in Japanese democracy, and JET alumni are protesting the potential cuts.

►Japanese centenarian update: 200 of 40,000+ now missing.

►Show us the (ancient) money! A wooden tablet marked with the date "May 4, year 2 of Tenpyo" (730 C.E.) shed's light on Japan’s first mint in Yamaguchi and the 8th century wadokaichin currency.

Wall Street Journal lists lessons from Japan for U.S. train operators.

The New York Times style magazine profiles Japanese reggae, mon.

►Over at BoingBoing, Tokyo Vice author Jake Adelstein invites his Yakuza contacts to review the new videogame, Yakuza 3.

►Drama! Japan Society announced its 2010-11 season of music, dance and theaterBroadway World has full details.

►In news roundups roundup news: Japan Times' JapanPulse Pulsations "links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy." You bet we will!

N.O., S.J.

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